STATE AID BOOST COMES WITH QUESTIONS

c-christieGovernor Chris Christie at a Middletown town hall meeting in January. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Governor Chris Christie’s announcement Wednesday of how he’s apportioning $850 million in aid to school districts was welcome news to superintendents, who last year took axes and scalpels to their budgets when Christie froze funding.

But while any additional funds are welcome, local school leaders say they’re still in the dark over one big question: how are they going to be able to use it?

“We’re still, right now, sort of waiting for additional guidance from the Department of Education how they would like us to proceed with additional funding,” said Jim Stefankiewicz, superintendent of Red Bank Regional High School in Little Silver. His school got a whopping 147-percent boost in state aid. “Information from the governor’s office said that they would really like it to be earmaked more for property tax relief, which we are very open to and considering.”

But until official word comes down what the money can be used for, Stefankiewicz, like other leaders, is in a holding pattern.

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PRE-K AT THE LIMIT, AND LIKELY TO STAY

pre-k2Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction, John Bombardier, with a pre-k student. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

After two years of growth, the number of children in Red Bank’s lauded pre-kindergarten program is likely to stay static next school year, a direct result of the state’s dire budget situation.

“I don’t know that we’ll be able to expand, but we expect we’ll have the same number of children for next year,” Superintendent Laura Morana said.

Now taking up residence at various locations throughout the borough, the early education program tailored to three- and four-year-olds is at capacity, with 238 students, plus a waiting list.

And Morana can’t stop singing the praises of the state-funded initiative, in which only five school districts in the state were selected to participate.

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YMCA AMPING UP THE OUTREACH

lisa-christianThe Y’s new executive director, Lisa Christian, outside her Middletown office. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It was anything but a smooth, low-stress transition for Lisa Christian when she stepped into her role as the Community YMCA‘s president and CEO in June.

“It’s been interesting,” Christian said. “I started the job and went into two litigation discussions (with Red Bank). That’s a very unusual component in a new job.”

Now that those two lawsuits the Y filed against Red Bank — one over the zoning board’s rejection of a proposed expansion, and another over the sale of the previously borough-owned building at 51 Monmouth Street — are poised to end amicably, Christian can focus her efforts where she wants: the community the Y serves.

“I think our donors and our supporters, and even the people who aren’t very close to us, are very happy that The Y is not going to be spending time in court, but doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” Christian said.

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